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Lehigh Acres is a census-designated place (CDP) in Lee County, Florida, United States. The US Census Bureau of 2010 had the CDP's population at 86,784. Lehigh Acres is a part of the Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Lehigh Acres is located at 26°36′30″N 81°38′21″W (26.608333, -81.639167). According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 95.98 square miles (248.6 km2), of which 94.89 square miles (245.8 km2) is land and 1.09 square miles (2.8 km2) (1.14%) is water.
Lehigh Acres was developed in the mid-1950s by Chicago businessman Lee Ratner. Seeking a tax shelter, Ratner had sold his pest control business and faced the possibility of losing most of his earnings to the high capital gains tax of that era. Ratner heard that cattle was a good investment for people in his predicament, and he bought 18,000 acres (73 km²) of land in eastern Lee County and named it the Lucky Lee Ranch. After ranching for a while, and despite having no prior development experience, Ratner joined with Gerald H. Gould, a Florida advertising executive, Manuel Riskin, a Chicago CPA, and Edward Shapiro, a former Chicagoan who was in the real estate business in California, and began land sales at Lehigh Acres.
Gerald Gould was the president of the corporation that developed Lehigh Acres, which began in 1954. He remained as president until the company was sold in 1972.
Since the days of the Lucky Lee Ranch, the boundaries of Lehigh Acres have stretched to cover 61,000 acres (250 km2), including the runways of the former Buckingham Army Airfield, a major Army Air Forces training base that was closed at the end of World War II. The pasture land where Ratner's cattle roamed and the since broken up runways where military flight crews trained has been divided into some 152,000 0.25-acre (1,000 m2) and 0.5-acre (2,000 m2) lots for housing, along over 1,400 miles of roads. Strips of land along major thoroughfares, such as Homestead Road and Lee Boulevard, were set aside for commerce. In 1997, nearly 90% of Lehigh Acres' lots remained vacant.
In 1992, Lee County, with the cooperation of a new developer, declared Lehigh Acres to be blighted, which authorized its Community Redevelopment Agency to take steps towards improving infrastructure and planning elements neglected by the original developer. It is estimated that nearly $11 million would be needed to repave the development's roads.
A surge in housing prices led to a boom in Lehigh Acres new-housing construction from 2003 to 2007, peaking at more than 7,500 new homes constructed in 2006. The number of homes built during this period exceeded the total number of homes constructed during the preceding 50 years.
But as in much of the United States, the real-estate boom of the 2000s went bust. The median house price in the Ft. Myers area peaked in late 2005 at $322,300. Three years later, it had plummeted to $106,900. A reliance on construction jobs no longer available pushed the unemployment rate in the area of Lehigh Acres and Fort Myers to 14% by the summer of 2009. Property values reached a low in 2008 of $106,900. By late 2014, property values averaged $169,200.
As of 2010, there were 38,995 households. As of 2000, 32.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.4% were married couples living together, 10.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.2% were non-families. 22.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.62 and the average family size was 3.03.
In 2000, the CDP the population was spread out with 26.0% under the age of 18, 6.8% from 18 to 24, 27.3% from 25 to 44, 20.4% from 45 to 64, and 19.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 94.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.5 males.
As of 2000, the median income for a household in the CDP was $31,517, and the median income for a family was $35,492. Males had a median income of $25,202 versus $19,935 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $17,186. About 9.8% of families and 11.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.5% of those under age 18 and 7.6% of those age 65 or over.
As of 2000, 84.52% of residents spoke English as their first language, while 11.81% spoke Spanish, 1.34% spoke German, and 0.83% spoke French as their mother tongue. In total, 15.47% of the total population spoke languages other than English.
Lehigh Acres is served by LeeTran buses.
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